Before you became a NetSquared organizer, you had some sort of vision for your group. You want to accomplish something with your community. You want to have events on topics you care about.
NetSquared is committed to accessibility, so almost all our events are free. But food and drink can be a big lure (pizza is magic!), and in some countries it’s the expectation that events provide refreshments. Unfortunately it can be challenging to pay for food and drinks at evening Meetups. So, how do you get a sponsor for your group?
In my four years of running events with the SFTech4Good Meetup, I grew the community (from 2,000 to nearly 5,000 members) in two ways:
Consistently creating high-quality events (we did about 9 or 10 a year, or nearly one a month, with a summer break).
Sending out a monthly email newsletter with information about tech for good events, resources, and jobs – even those that we weren’t producing, but which were relevant to a tech for good audience.
What do those have in common? Creating value, repeatedly, over time.
Once you have a thriving community, and especially once you have a good size email list, you can charge for that value by identifying organizations with a problem you can solve.
Types of Sponsorships
The types of sponsors I successfully found for the SFTech4Good Meetup were in several categories:
Companies that want to promote a conference to nonprofits.
Event/conference organizers that want to promote scholarships for their event to your group.
Coding schools seeking diverse candidates for their “learn to code” bootcamp.
Organizations that need to recruit people, especially in recruiting engineers.
The offers I made to these organizations were either in-kind or paid:
Sponsor an event (in-kind): host an event at the sponsor’s office and the sponsor pays for food, drinks, and (if you’re lucky) videography.
Sponsor an email (paid): announce your job posting/conference/bootcamp scholarship to our list.
In-kind donations for food and drinks for nonprofit events can be helpful, but in general I found it much simpler to get iced tea, soft drinks, etc. at Costco and pay for pizza delivery. No applications needed, and no waiting to hear back from potential sponsors.
For videography/photography services, I recommend working with local arts schools or posting a job listing on organizations like BAVC where video/photo professionals early in their career are looking for paid projects. Thumbtack and Craigslist are also good resources as well, if you have a budget, or VolunteerMatch for volunteers.
Larger companies may have in-house videography/photography resources as well, so you can sometimes get free event recordings depending on where you host your event.
What Sponsors Want: Metrics and Results
There’s an old saying in advertising that “half your advertising money is wasted, you just don’t know which half.” That was in the days where TV, radio, and print were a big deal. With more online channels for specialized audiences today, organizations that want to showcase why they’re awesome...need to find awesome ways to do that. Like your NetSquared group, hopefully!
What I mean is: Sponsors want to know the results of their investment in sponsoring you. Say you’re a sponsor, and you run a coding bootcamp that costs $20,000. If you sponsor an email to a NetSquared group that has 1,000 people on their email list, and one person ends up signing up for the coding bootcamp, that’s a 20x return on investment (ROI) for the sponsor because they get $20,000 in revenue from that $1,000 sponsored email.
An easy way to get sponsors would be to show that you can get them results for their goals. If that sounds really hard (it is!), you can at least offer sponsors metrics and background information about their group, to provide comparable information to Google or Facebook ads, which are usually in the range of 50 cents to a few bucks per click. If you go back to that same sponsor with the $20K coding bootcamp and can show that you get 200 clicks for that 1,000 person email, it’s a $5 cost per click for that email - which makes it easier for the sponsor to compare their marketing costs of sponsoring your group vs. advertising elsewhere.
Monthly Subscription Models
Another sponsorship model to consider is a monthly membership, like how Data Analysts for Social Good does it. They do monthly webinars and charge $100 per person for year for access to their webinar archive. While they’re not a NetSquared group, the same principles apply: create value and then charge for it. Open Collective is another platform that can help you manage memberships.
The Bottom Line: Start Where You Are and Grow!
If you’re just starting out with a new NetSquared Meetup and don’t have a huge email list or a large community yet, start with hosting events at companies that can pay for pizza for events. Keep creating great events, and create a monthly (or quarterly) newsletter with helpful local resources. The more you keep consistently creating value, the more you’ll get noticed and you may have organizations emailing YOU to ask for the privilege of sponsoring your group.
About the Author
Katharine Bierce works in content marketing at Salesforce.org, and is especially excited about AI for Good. From 2014-2018, she served as a volunteer event producer with the SFTech4Good Meetup. Under her leadership, the group more than doubled in size from nearly 2,000 to almost 5,000 members today on Meetup, and she also managed a team of volunteers to build a dedicated SFTech4Good website, among other accomplishments. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, writing about mindfulness and business, and teaching yoga. Follow her on Twitter: @kbierce